Comments on Designing for Non-Native Speakers

14 Reader Comments

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  1. I don’t think that Flesch-Kincaid has much to say about non-native speakers because it measures word and sentence length which affects native speakers as well and rather relates to the reader’s overall capacity to process text.

    Judging from my own experience, understanding problems rather result from colloquial expressions, figures of speech or an extraordinary, literary vocabulary (and, of course, marketing blah-blah). I’d rather test how common the words in use are.

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  2. Good article on an under-discussed topic! I’m a UX specialist for a website based in the very multicultural city of Toronto, and have had many opportunities to do user testing with non-native English speakers.

    I agree 100% about the importance of copy readability. In addition to evaluating reading level, another key copywriting strategy is to avoid overly-clever language. Wordplay that seems witty and original to your marketing department will probably befuddle your English-as-a-second-language users.

    My other recommendation is to follow established design patterns. The search box needs to look like a search box. The main call-to-action should be strong and obvious. I’ve seen people with almost no knowledge of English successfully complete a task thanks to these familiar visual cues.

    Interfaces aimed at a multilingual audience are not the place to push the design envelope and introduce unconventional language and radical visual treatments. This doesn’t mean your design can’t be sophisticated and attractive - simplicity can be beautiful too.

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  3. A really interesting article, Senongo. Readability is a huge issue with the web these days. I’d go further than saying it’s about designing for non-native speakers, though - according to the Literary Trust 5.2 million adults in England can be described as functionally illiterate. That could be because of education, a developmental disability (e.g., autism, dyslexia), or something else. Even if a person has high levels of English language comprehension and is a native speaker, something like autism could mean they really struggle with metaphors or turns-of-phrase.

    I’m finding that a lot of content authors are forgetting to write to their audience; most of the authors I talk to have at least a Bachelor’s degree and often slip into language that’s a far higher level than the audience’s.

    That’s not to say that people misunderstanding something is because their language skills aren’t highly developed. In my last job I often found myself translating from web developer-speak into something non-developers could understand. This was usually because of an email, but sometimes it’d be in meetings where I could see that only two people around the table understood what the developer was saying but the people who had to agree to something had no idea what it was they were being asked to agree to.

    The thing that I try to remember is that my audience isn’t me. My audience has to understand what it is I’m saying, they only receive the message. Keeping that in mind makes it easier for me to rework content without making it too simple; if I know who my audience are I can write it to their level. It doesn’t matter if they’re native or non-native speakers at that point; if they easily understand what I’m saying and learn something from it, then I’ve done my job as a content author.

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  4. I don’t feel that Flesch-Kincaid has much to say in regards to non-local speakers on the grounds that it gauges word and sentence length which influences local speakers also and rather identifies with the peruser’s general ability to process content.
    www.digiclayinfotech.com

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  5. As the writer, I would like to share with my opinion. Sometimes I meet sites with not grammatically clear content you need some time to understand “What did they want to say to me?”, “What should I do right now?”. There is no sense of making hard-understandable navigation. Totally agree, that site should be simple and standardized that users can easily read and remember.
    P.S.: Really hard to pronounce for non-native speakers word like “Squirrel” :)

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  6. The technology is blooming each day and people have got new ways to connect to the Internet. Besides a laptop, now-a-days your website is seen on a mobile phone, a tablet, a phablet, and a smart phone. Thus, it is important for a website to be equally charming on smaller screens too. We offer responsive web design solutions that are efficient and can target numerous audiences through various devices – be it big or small.

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  7. Excellent read, wish there was more on this subject around. We have spent many an hour testing layouts and trying to build thai-friendly english designs based on english words that are more commonly used and easily pronouncable. Mixed results really, now we translate all designs (horribly time consuming) and find that reduces the local bounce rate on sites by about 10-15%.

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  8. Most of the people know English language than other languages and interested in learning this language because the English language is used in many websites and many companies are hired based on the communication. I have researched about this in many essay help and the studies shows that many website developers develop the websites in English language.

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  9. Good Article Senongo, Great topic to discuss about Non-Native Speakers. landscaping burlington

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  10. The language is the main tool to consider when you create a website. Because, the people will communicate any site by reading the website’s information. So, the developer must take English professional for the content of the website.

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  11. This strategy is not only relevant for non-native speakers. All users, regardless of their comprehension levels

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  12. Sorry, commenting is closed on this article.